Weary of child neglect during the COVID-19 lockdown
MASERU – In pursuit of its international mission to protect children from abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in line with its national Gender Based Violence (GBV), child marriage and COVID-19 sensitisation drive, World Vision Lesotho this week hosted a successful campaign at Masite Ha Bereng, in Rothe. World Vision Lesotho launched the national drive awareness that beyond economic, health and nutrition impacts of the pandemic, children were most likely faced with increased risks of neglect, abuse, exploitation and other forms of violence.
The charity has, as a result, appealed to relevant stakeholders within government, civil society and among religious bodies to each play a part in the protection of children from all forms of abuse as they stay at home for an extended period during the lockdown. Since the beginning of this year, World Vision has traversed five of the country’s districts to assist vulnerable women and girls with food packages and toiletries; while also imparting the message of sensitisation against abuse and exploitation.
Advocacy and Justice for Children Manager at the organisation, ’Maseisa Ntlama, says one of the core aims of the project is to help women and girls affected by the drought and COVID-19 in the country. “We also raise awareness on GBV, child marriages, human trafficking as we are all aware that these ills have been increasing during this time of lockdown that children are confined at home,” Ntlama said. “The UNFPA is also involved as we give counselling sessions to help them with the challenges they meet that definitely cause them a lot of stress.
“We make them aware that despite the pandemic and all other problems it brings about God lives and is the centrepiece of their lives, and that through Him they will be able to defeat all the hardships that they are facing. “We are a big team that also comprises pastors because we believe their souls need to be nourished in order to be healthy spiritually,” she continued. Ntlama said they have managed to help about 200 women drawn from the districts that they have visited, which are Maseru, Quthing, Mohale’s Hoek, Mafeteng and Berea. “The project will continue till September this year, during which time we intend to reach 1 000 vulnerable women in the country. The Ministry of Social Development has been a great supporter of our efforts, and we will soon rope in Repsi for social support,” Ntlama added.
Besides presentations made at Masite there was a community dialogue on GBV that included challenges that have been created by the current national lockdown in communities and individual households. The community revealed that since the lockdown, child marriages have increased alarmingly, borne by food shortages in several homesteads while parents also conceded to playing a role in similarly increasing the number of cases of abuse. “It is every child’s right to ask for food from their parents, and by shouting at my children asking them where they expect me to get food while we are all locked down I am abusing them.
“I can confirm from my very actions that I have also perpetuated abuse. This lockdown has also affected our kids because when they notice that they have nothing to eat, they end up turning into thieves and stealing from other households,” said ‘Matšepo Mohejane. Women present at this event said they were aware of GBV and its consequences, and how they contributed to its perpetuation and what they ought to do when one of them has become a victim. They said they know about perceptions attached to GBV and understood social beliefs and practices that can increase the vulnerability of women or girls.
Chief Mojalefa Bereng, on behalf of all area chiefs, thanked the World Vision team for the visit and expressed hope for its return in the endeavour to build a society with strong, independent women and girls. He said he believed the organisation would keep empowering women and giving them counselling as this will bring joy to many households.
World Vision is a global Christian humanitarian organisation that partners with children, families and their communities to help them reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice in Lesotho, making sure all children enjoy good health and nutrition, and have access to clean water and improved sanitation facilities.
It works towards ensuring that children are educated and prepared for life’s challenges and opportunities and are protected from harm while experiencing the love of God and their neighbours. It also seeks to see children participating in the decisions that affect them and their communities, while living in resilient families and communities with diversified livelihoods that are able to provide for their current and future needs. The organisation follows Jesus’ example to show unconditional love to the poor and oppressed; serving every child of any faith or none.